The day that my two daughters were old enough to walk home from school without me was a real victory since I still had napping toddlers in the house. To prepare them for this new responsibility I walked the route to and from school with them many times. We discussed stranger danger and the need to come straight home. I thought I had covered all the bases. That is until one afternoon my girls were late. I was starting to worry when the phone rang. It was another mother who had walked home with her kids that day. “I thought you might want to know that Savannah and Casey are rolling around on the ground hitting each other.” Okie dokie, thanks for calling.
The good parent in me was thinking, “How can I help my children deal with their anger so they won’t hurt each other?” The human parent in me was thinking, “Why did my children have to beat the crud out of each other in public?” And the Christian parent in me was thinking, “Is anger even an acceptable emotion for those who follow Jesus?”
God-honoring Ways to Handle Intense Emotions in Children
Emotions, especially the messy ones like anger, sadness or fear can be confusing for us as parents. How are we to handle the intense feelings of our children in a God-honoring way? Should we squelch them, ignore them, or encourage them?
None of the above. Instead we need to view hard emotions as natural occurrences. In the book of Ecclesiastes it says that there is a time and season for everything-a time to weep and a time to mourn. We know that sadness is a natural part of life because even Jesus wept. And anger, which can feel like a sin, is not although what you do with it might be. Human emotions are part of our God-given humanity. They are normal. Our children will experience the full range of human emotions if they have the freedom to feel them without shame or judgment.
The other thing we need to do as parents is realize that emotions act as indicators of their inner worlds. They alert us to problems. When our children are angry, their emotions are telling us that they perceive a threat. When our children are sad their emotions are telling us that there is a loss in their lives that needs to be grieved. When they are afraid they are telling us that they need protection. Emotions will not solve their problems, but they point us to heart issues that we can address.
Emotions can also be used as opportunities for deeper connection with our children although it’s not easy. When I received that after-school call I was not thinking about the great opportunity I would have to bond with my girls. And yet this display of anger led to a significant discussion as I acknowledged their feelings and then asked deeper questions about the source of their anger. And that is the important part: acknowledge their feelings BEFORE moving on to the problem-solving stage. When we do that our children will feel understood by us and our connection with them will deepen.
Finally we need to make sure our children know that God accepts our emotions and wants us to share them with Him. Just as he did with David in the book of Psalms, he will use their emotions as opportunities to deepen His relationship with them.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
By Dale Skram
Mom of four
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
real.life.speaker, real.faith.writer, and real.life.coach